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I wasn’t originally planning to write about Girls and Sex: Navigating the Complicated New Landscape by Peggy Orenstein and Spinster: Making a Life of One’s Own by Kate Bolick in the same post, but as I was gathering my thoughts I started to see some connections between the two. Both are excellent examples of journalism and cultural criticism, and both try to convince the reader to reconsider the traditional narratives about sexuality and femininity. So, a pair of mini-reviews it is!

girls and sexGirls and Sex by Peggy Orenstein

If there’s one book I’ve read so far this year that I would consider a “must read,” it’s Girls and Sex by Peggy Orenstein. The book is a survey and exploration of sexuality and sexual behavior among young girls in high school and college, based extensively on interviews Orenstein conducted with young women in high school and college. Through those interviews, along with a wealth of other research, Orenstein put together a book that is wide-ranging, thoughtful, and sure to spark conversations about how we can teach girls (and boys) about sex better.

I loved the way Orenstein gave weight to the experiences the girls she interviewed shared and thought carefully about what messages they were and weren’t getting from their peers, their parents, and the other adults in their lives. I also thought her discussion of consent brought some necessary nuance to that issue – we’re at a moment when teaching women about healthy sexuality needs to go beyond “no means no,” even thought that conversation can be really difficult to have. In fact, her biggest argument is that by being reluctant to talk frankly about sex, both the good and the bad, we don’t prepare them to make healthy choices in the world. This book is an important read, highly recommended.

spinster by kate bolickSpinster by Kate Bolick

Spinster is one of those books that I had mixed feelings about. On the one hand, once I sat down to read it, I tore through this book in a single day because I was facing pressure to get it back to the library on time, and because I enjoyed reading it so much. In the book, Bolick writes about “pleasures and possibilities of remaining single,” using her own experiences and the experiences of women over time who bucked conventions of marriage and family during their own times. It’s a fascinating mix of memoir and cultural criticism that helped me think a lot about the choices I’ve made and why some of the boundaries I’ve set remain important as I think about balancing family and a flourishing creative life.

On the other hand, I think it’s important to note that Bolick has a very specific idea of who a spinster is – a woman who remains single and childless by choice – that doesn’t necessarily encompass the diversity of experiences single women have. The fact that Bolick jumped from relationship to relationship, deliberately choosing to remain single despite (I think) two chances to get married, puts her in a situation with a lot of privilege I’m not sure other women have. It doesn’t invalidate the book, it’s just one of those contexts that matters when talking about the book and one of the ways in which I feel cautious about a universal recommendation. I loved it, but because I could see so much of myself in these stories – I’m not sure if other readers will feel the same way.  

Some of the links in this post are affiliate links through Amazon. If you make a purchase through any of those links, I will receive a small commission.

Currently may 22 2016

Briefly | After being away for two weekends, I’m really trying to embrace a weekend with absolutely nothing planned. It’s been wonderful — lots of time to read, catch up on chores, go to the gym, and spend time with the boyfriend and the cat. I’m feeling really grateful for life right now, even if there are some big picture things happening that are scary and hard.

Reading | I finished reading LaRose by Louise Erdrich last week, and spent most of this week making my way through Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi. Both of them were really incredible. I also had a couple of big library holds come in that I want to get too — The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah and The Nest by Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney. I also just got a copy of Mary Roach’s new book, Grunt, that I need to read in preparation for an interview this week (SO EXCITED!). It’s been a good week of reading.

Watching | Captain America: Civil War, twice! The boyfriend and I went with his mom when we were in Milwaukee, then I went again last night to our local theater with a co-worker. It is such a great movie!

Listening | My current audio book is Black Man in a White Coat: A Doctor’s Reflections on Race and Medicine by Damon Tweedy. It’s really, really good!

Cooking | We got a real grill! Yes, that’s right, we’ve upgraded from a little camp grill to an actual gas grill that you can stand at and use. It’s pretty nifty.

Blogging | This week on the blog has been all about Book Expo America — a quick look at the books I brought home and 10 highlights from the trip that weren’t about books. I’m hoping to spread out other posts from BEA through the next couple of weeks, mixed in with some other reviews and whatnot.

Promoting | Candace (Beth Fish Reads) put together an excellent selection of nonfiction coming out this month. Be prepared for your TBR pile to explode.

Hating | The only downside to the weekend is that I am fighting allergies or a cold, but I can’t tell which one. I’m leaning towards cold — I’ve never had allergies in my life — but either way it’s annoying.

Loving | Sunlight! Waking up when the sun is already out does wonders for my mood and overall energy level.

Avoiding (Sort of) | I am trying to avoid too much election nonsense, but this piece analyzing Donald Trump’s Twitter feed over the last eight months or so is fascinating.

Anticipating | If I can get motivated, I’d like to try and get all my BEA books sorted out and put away. It means taking a hard look at my review copies bookshelf, but I think I’m up to the task.

Happy Sunday, everyone! What are you reading today?

Some of the links in this post are affiliate links through Amazon. If you make a purchase through any of those links, I will receive a small commission.


Although Book Expo America is a lot about books, for me (as an only slightly-connected publishing industry person) it’s also a chance to see many of my bookish friends. Book bloggers really are my tribe, so seeing them is always a highlight of the trip. In generally chronological order, here are some highlights of the conference that were not entirely to do with books:

1. Surviving the Chicago L for Book Riot Happy Hour on Tuesday night!

Every year, the Book Riot crew gets together for a “family dinner” to hang out and have some fun. This year the dinner was at a bar called Headquarters in downtown Chicago — a bit of a hike from the Hyatt near McCormick Place, the conference center. Despite pouring rain and a lot of anxiety about navigating public transit, I made it to the bar and had a lot of fun meeting other contributors and seeing old friends.

The walk back to the McCormick Place Hyatt on Tuesday night was pretty creepy.

The walk back to the McCormick Place Hyatt on Tuesday night was pretty creepy.

2. Lunch on Tuesday before the show started!

Florinda (The 3R’s Blog) is my blogging BFF and my usual BEA roommate. We get along really well, and I love getting to hang out with her. We grabbed lunch in the cafeteria of McCormick Place on Tuesday and managed to meet up with Julie (Julz Reads), Marisa (The Daily Dosage) and Katie (Words for Worms) for lunch. There was a lot of squealing.

3. Meandering the show floor with Julie!

The first hour or so on the show floor Wednesday afternoon is pretty chaotic. Publishers often do some big galley giveaways right away, so it can be a crowd to get in. Julie and I had a couple of the same books we were looking for, so we walked together for a bit. Then we heard that Hatchette was giving out copies of Emma Donoghue’s new book, The Wonder, so we scooted back over and managed to snag the last two galleys that were sitting on a floor. Score!

4. Book Blogger Happy Hour!

Book Blogger Happy Hour, another event Julie helped spearhead, was a huge success! About 20 of us ended up at a bar a short walk from McCormick place where we had dinner and drinks. I honestly can’t even remember who all was there, but I was excited to get this picture with Julie and Katie (thanks for letting me steal it off Facebook, Julie).

katie, julie, kim

Katie (Words for Worms), Julie (Juliz Reads) and me at Book Blogger Happy Hour.

5. Interviewing Leigh Bardugo! 

Through Book Riot, I got the chance to interview Leigh Bardugo, author of one of my favorite fantasy series, The Grisha Trilogy. She’s also written a pair of books — Six of Crows and Crooked Kingdom — set in the same world with different characters. I’ll have more from that interview up on Book Riot soon.

6. Breakfast and dinner with Candace (Beth Fish Reads), Sheila (Book Journey) and Florinda!

One of the true highlights of the trip was spending so much time with three of my best blogging friends, Florinda, Candace and Sheila. They’ve all been blogging about as long as I have, so we’ve been friends for years. We started out Thursday with breakfast at The Spoke & Bird (so good!) and ended with dinner at Lou Malnati’s for Chicago-style deep dish pizza. It was so great!

breakfast and dinner

Florinda (The 3Rs Blog), Candace (Beth Fish Reads) and I having drinks after our long walk. Thanks for the picture, Shelia!

7. Walking along the Lakeshore Trail after dinner!

After a couple of days of rain, Thursday ended up being just gorgeous. After dinner, the four of us decided to walk back to our hotel (about two miles) along the lake shore in Chicago. It was a beautiful night, with lots of stops to take pictures and explore. When we got back to the hotel, we celebrated with a drink before heading off to bed.

when book bloggers travel

When bloggers travel… you know there will be a lot of pictures!

8. Snagging two big biographies of famous ladies!

There were two big biographies I learned about when we got to the show, one of Shirley Jackson and the other of Queen Victoria. I managed to get one of the last galleys of the Shirley Jackson biography when I talked to an editor at the booth — apparently they had a couple squirreled away and he felt like it was ok to give me one. I also camped out in front of the Penguin Random House book with several other bloggers to get the Victoria biography when it was dropped in a giveaway. It’s a little silly to do that just for a book, but it was a lot of fun.

9. Jeff O’Neal and the rest of the Rioters!

By late Friday morning I was pretty beat and not really sure what I wanted to be doing. As I was standing in line at Starbucks, I ran into Jeff, one of the co-founders of Book Riot who recruited me to write for the site when it first started in 2011. It was so great to talk with him, wander the show floor a bit, and make plans to hang out when I’m in Portland later this summer. And of course it was so great to see many of the other Book Rioters around the floor — Rebecca, Amanda, Alice, Rachel, Cassandra, Aram, Greg, Jessica and a bunch more I’m missing.

book rioters eating lunch

Me, Alice, Cassandra and Jessica having lunch at McCormick Place. Rioters in the wild!

10. Meeting so many of my other favorite bloggers!

I hesitate to even start a list because I am SURE I am going to miss someone awesome and I am too lazy to pull out my business cards, but… I was so excited to meet Alice, Kerry, Julienne, Jenna, Shaina, Stacey, ShannonCatherine, Annie, Melissa, Caitie… book bloggers are my people, and I am so excited to have met all of them and more.

Some of the links in this post are affiliate links through Amazon. If you make a purchase through any of those links, I will receive a small commission.

I was sure I’d be able to get a post up today with some of my highlights from the trip. But then I had to dig myself out of what felt like an incredibly deep email hole at work and cover a school board meeting that lasted until after 8:30 p.m. Suffice it to say, by the time I got home and put on my pajamas, I had no brain power left to put together the post I was planning. Instead, here are a bunch of gratuitous photos of the books I picked up at Book Expo America this year!

First, what I managed to snag on Wednesday afternoon — a mix of galley giveaways and author signings:

bea 2016 book pile monday

The highlights of that pile are probably Truevine by Beth Macy (October, Little Brown), Another Day in the Death of America by Gary Younge (October, Nation Books), and You’ll Grow Out of It by Jessi Klein (July, Grand Central Publishing).

Next, the books from Thursday:

bea 2016 book pile thursday

As you can probably tell, one of my stops that day was Graywolf Press, where I was able to pick up two of their fall nonfiction titles — Riverine by Angela Palm (August) and The Art of Waiting by Belle Boggs (September). I also was able to snag a galley of Shirley Jackson by Ruth Franklin (September, Liveright), a much-coveted biography on the show floor. More on these books later.

Finally, my smaller book haul from Friday:

bea 2016 book pile Friday

Friday felt a bit more random, in terms of what I ended up bringing home. I was looking for Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi (June, Knopf) and The Virginity of Famous Men by Christine Sneed (September, Bloomsbury), but managed to pick up several more promising titles too.

I’ll have more on all the books — and all the fun moments — from the conference in the next few weeks, once work settles down and I can get back into a groove.

Some of the links in this post are affiliate links through Amazon. If you make a purchase through any of those links, I will receive a small commission.

Currently | Road Trippin’

currently may 8 2016

Briefly | Hello, friends! This update is coming to you from the suburbs of Milwaukee. The boyfriend and I came out yesterday to spend a few days with his mom, after which I’ll be heading solo to Chicago for Book Expo America. A vacation from real life couldn’t have come at a better time.

Reading | It’s been a quiet week of reading. Stress in other parts of life seemed to bleed over, and so I struggled to get into any book. My primary read for this weekend has been LaRose by Louise Erdrich, her newest coming out this month from Harper. It’s stellar so far. I’m also hoping to get through a re-read of Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo, in preparation for an interview I have scheduled with her during BEA this week — I’m so freaking excited! (And major thanks to the folks at Book Riot for the opportunity!)

Watching | I really want to start watching Batman: The Animated Series, but I haven’t been able to convince the boyfriend it’s a good idea.

Blogging | This week I shared an April reading wrap up and quick thoughts on three fun comics. I think this week the blog will be pretty slow, although I’d like to get up some sort of Book Expo preview post with some of the books/authors I’m excited about for the conference. We’ll see how it goes.

Hating | I’m glad we’re in Milwaukee, but I’m also bummed that I’m not at home today celebrating Mother’s Day with my mom and grandmas. I shouldn’t complain though, I get a lot of time with my family and this has already been a fun trip.

Loving | My sister and I had a good kvetching session on the phone Friday night. I definitely needed that after the week it’s been.

Avoiding | I need to figure out how to navigate the Chicago public transit system… but I’m also kind of lazy and hoping I can just wing it using Google. Tips welcome!

Anticipating | Book Expo America! After missing the conference last year, I’m so looking forward to catching up with all my bookish friends this week.

Celebrating | I almost forgot — Tuesday is my eight-year blogiversary! In all the craziness of work and vacation prep, it totally slipped my mind until just now. Craziness.

Anyway, happy Sunday everyone! What are you reading today?

Some of the links in this post are affiliate links through Amazon. If you make a purchase through any of those links, I will receive a small commission.